WRC - Tänak snatches Rally Italia Sardegna win from Ogier in joint-closest WRC finish


2024 Rally Italia Sardegna - Sunday report

Ott Tänak claimed a shock victory at Rally Italia Sardegna on Sunday afternoon after late agony for long-time leader Sébastien Ogier.

The Estonian, driving a Hyundai i20 N, celebrated his maiden success of the season when a damaged tyre in the final rough road speed test denied Ogier a third consecutive FIA World Rally Champonship victory.

Having traded blows with Tänak early in the rally, Ogier led since Saturday afternoon in his Toyota GR Yaris. The Frenchman began the rally-closing Wolf Power Stage with a 6.2sec advantage but ended 0.2sec behind after disaster unfolded in the closing kilometres.

Today marks the joint-closest finish in WRC history – matching the result of Rally Jordan in 2011. On that occasion, Ogier was on the other side of the ledger and held off his now team boss Jari-Matti Latvala.

Tänak, who scored his previous win in Chile last year, was humble in victory. He faced similar heartbreak on the very same stage in 2019 when a power steering failure cost him a guaranteed win.

Dani Sordo made it two Hyundai cars in the top three, helping the Korean marque to remain in the lead of the manufacturers’ championship by eight points over Toyota. The 41-year-old was initially out of sorts but climbed the order as drivers ahead of him suffered heartbreak.

One of those drivers was his team-mate Thierry Neuville, whose podium bid went awry when he slid off the road on SS8. Neuville’s consolation was that he claimed the full 12 points from Super Sunday to retain the driver’s series lead.

Evans’ feeling inside his GR Yaris was not optimal for the rough gravel roads but, while he ended almost three minutes back from the lead in fourth, the Welshman did succeed in reducing Neuville’s buffer from 24 to 18 points. He and Tänak now sit on identical scores.

Consistency rewarded Puma youngster Grégoire Munster with a fifth-place finish. His M-Sport Ford team-mate Adrien Fourmaux ran as high as third early on but retired in Friday’s final test with an electrical fault.

Pajari basks in WRC2 glory at Rally Italia Sardegna

Such was the level of attrition that WRC2 machinery filled the remaining top 10 positions, with Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 driver Sami Pajari claiming the WRC2 win and sixth overall. 

The Finn returned to the top step of the WRC2 podium for the first time since last year’s Secto Rally Finland, catapulting himself from 11th to fourth in the overall championship standings.

Pajari began Sunday with a 54.7sec advantage over Yohan Rossel and was able to take a risk-free approach to the remaining stages. His lead was reduced to 32.3sec by Frenchman Rossel at the finish.

Despite victory going to Pajari, it was Rossel - behind the wheel of his upgraded Citroën C3 Rally2 - turning the most heads during the weekend. After Saturday down in 15th overall, he rattled off eight consecutive stage wins to overtake Jan Solans (Toyota GR Yaris) and move into second overall midway through the penultimate day.

It spurred Solans to respond on Sunday morning as the Spaniard desperately fought back in his Yaris, winning three of the day’s four stages. But his efforts were in vain as Rossel held on by 7.0sec, extending his championship lead over Solans to 23 points.

Pajari also celebrated glory in the WRC2 Challenger championship while Armin Kremer cruised to victory in WRC Masters Cup in a Škoda Fabia RS.

High-speed action awaits the WRC drivers at ORLEN 80th Rally Poland later this month. The gravel event returns to the series for the first time since 2017 and takes place from 27 – 30 June